JACKSON — The Saints first training camp in the Capital City culminates in a Mississippi pre-season match-up August 26.
The Saints’ Deuce McAllister and Fred McAfee, both Mississippians, will battle the Colts’ Peyton Manning, son of the legendary former Saint, Archie Manning of Drew. The game, sponsored by BankPlus, takes place at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “The entire BankPlus team is excited about helping to bring the Saints to Jackson,” according to William A. Ray, president and CEO of BankPlus. “It is a win for the state, the Saints and their many Mississippi fans.”
In addition to the excitement of all the NFL action and media attention, local residents will benefit from increased hospitality revenues and the opportunity for first-rate football entertainment.
“You don’t even have to be a big football fan to get excited about this game! Along with massive ticket sales, it should put lots of heads in beds, fill our restaurants and boost attendance at area attractions,” states Mara Hartmann, manager of communications and public relations for the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
BankPlus sponsored the Saint’s scrimmage game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in 2005. “We were grateful for the hospitality and support we received in Jackson last year and we’ve been determined since to return,” said Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, in a news release issued by BankPlus. “We look at Mississippi as a key part of our success and support. They are passionate about the Saints and football, and we make every effort to reach out to the fans here to show how much they are appreciated and valued,” Benson continued.
“Anything that brings, hopefully, 50,000-plus people into the downtown Jackson area is a good thing. The Saints have been forced to reach out to other areas since Katrina. They’ve said it’s been a good experience for them and we wanted to do what we could to help,” explains David Dumeyer, senior vice president at BankPlus. The Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau is working to calculate the potential economic impact for game day.
Game day will bring other opportunities to benefit Mississippians, as well. For instance, Schimmels restaurant will host a pre-game tailgate party as a fundraiser for Deuce McAllister’s Catch 22 Foundation. Jay Schimmel, former All-American football player at Ole Miss, and Deuce McAllister, former Ole Miss running back, will host this fundraiser to benefit Mississippi youth. “Deuce and Jay are partnering together on this unique event at Schimmels to allow Jacksonians and visitors to experience a tailgate party like never before! Proceeds will benefit Deuce McAllister’s Catch 22 Foundation. The Catch 22 Foundation is a non-profit charity dedicated to enhancing the lives of children in the Gulf South Region,” states Jenny Tate of the Catch 22 Foundation. “This event is another way that the business community is embracing the Saints being in Jackson,” continues Tate. The public can call (601) 519-6029 for more information.
Major events like the pre-season game provide a city the opportunity to entice new visitors. Jackson’s hospitality industry works hard to create a visitor experience that turns these first-timers into repeat visitors. Customer service training and awareness of local attractions is vital to the success of the tourism industry.
Hartmann cites a survey of 232 non-resident, Saints camp visitors conducted by the South Louisiana Economic Council (referring to the Saints camp in Houma, Louisiana) which asked if the non-residents’ experience in the city made it more likely that they would return for another visit. “Fully 219 of them, which is 94%, said “yes”. We want those results, and more, for Jackson!” she proclaims.
Hoteliers, who will benefit from the increased traffic, are enthusiastic about bringing games such as this to Jackson. “We are excited about hosting the Colts at the Jackson Marriott and showcasing our property. Contracts like this bring in additional temporary staffing, which is good for our community. We are happy to work with the convention and visitors bureau to bring these great opportunities to our area,” states Tina Smith, director of sales for Jackson Marriott, which is the Indianapolis Colts host hotel.
Dumeyer urges others in our community to get involved in the game stating, “We hope both individuals and companies will get tickets and get their folks out there because it will be good for the city.”